Metaphors and similes are an imaginative galaxy which greater minds than mine have explored. That doesn’t stop me gathering dazzling and original examples to enliven human exchange, expanding the choice of vigorous, beautiful ways to sharpen how we think, read, write and speak.

Amber-eyed glow

Amber-eyed glow

What a beautiful pair of eyes this young man must have had, like amber with the sun treacle-gold behind.  See another example of amber glow. The young Greek's eyes glowed like lumps of amber with the sun behind them.  Source: Louis Golding, Good-bye to Ithaca (London:...

Phone like fungi

Phone like fungi

Somehow this simile only works with the kind of phone Golding is describing, from the 1950s.  It doesn't quite ring true with today flat-packed smarty-phones. But there certainly was a small area at the far end of the building devoted to clerical activities, with a...

Like a grove of nettles

Like a grove of nettles

An original way to describe a covey of great-coated soldiers packed on a boat. The passageways was crowded with the soldiers we had taken on, looking as close-packed and furry in their greatcoats as a grove of nettles by a churchyard wall.  Source: Louis Golding,...

A piercing sound

A piercing sound

A high, piercing pipe sound likened to midges harassing the air, this simile makes me think of the horrifying tsssssssss sound of a mosquito around your ear just as you are about to sink into sleep. I also like the echo of the pipe, which may be played with a reed,...

Like a mouse

Like a mouse

You can see the man sawing between his teeth, the high-speed tooth-pick darting in and out like a mouse in a house with a hole. ... the seed-pearl teeth, where a tooth-pick ran ceaselessly in and out, in and back again, like a mouse in a cage.  Source: Louis Golding,...

As permanent as …

As permanent as …

The meringue as a simile for impermanence, which prompts me to invent a new sweet bake, the melt in your mouth ephemeringue (you heard it here).Alternatively, in the age of climate change, how about 'as permanent as sea ice' or 'as permanent as a glacier', or for the...

Someday the history of metaphor will be written and we shall at last grasp all the truths and misconceptions in which this intensely speculative subject abounds.  

Source: Jorge Luis Borges, On Writing, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2010, p. 45

A table laid by ravens

Leigh Fermor describes the unexpected hospitality and kindness encountered in the Mani after having been warned that his throat would more likely be slit.

I found this description of meals...

Bright as lamps, haggard as …

Never thought of dawn as being haggard, though an insomniac crawling into it after a restless night might be.  'Bright as lamps' is obvious but we never use it.

May...

Foxy fickle

Foxes have had a bad press due to their apparent wiliness.  Whether justified or not, this alliterative allusion deserves to enter common usage. Please, next time you refer to someone as...

A quickening of senses

Orlando does in fact travel through a time tunnel for hundreds of years, so this is less of a metaphor than it seems. The real metaphor lies in that quickening...

Bright eyes like glass grapes

‘Bright eyes’ implies a warm, sparkling, engaging personality until you slam up against ‘rather like glass grapes’, and then you move into something vacuous and apart. I happen to like...

Like a baby’s shawl

What a soft, enveloping cloud this must have been, of a gentle pastel hue.  Chill autumn morning here, and I happen to be sitting with a fleecy such shawl around...

As known to me as…

Two in one here, both unfamiliar ways of describing something familiar.  Wood knots, if you live with them, do become known to you - I am getting to know those...

As secular as…

A refreshing simile, surprising in its flavour, likening secularity to ice cream.

'Father saw himself as part of the New India - rich, modern and as secular as...

On wobbling and inflating rhetoric

An unusual way to describe rhetoric, but apt given that the islands Nicolson is writing about could be home to seals.  You can imagine the elephant seal pontificating in front...

The Land of Canaan

Kazantzakis seems to have studied - absorbed - the places of the Bible, bringing individual landscapes and particularities vividly to life. I can't recall a land being likened to air, rendering...

Sourdust’s skin

Sourdust is the aged, dusty, crumbling Master of Ceremonies and custodian of endless ritual, rites and rules in the world of Gormenghast castle, having digested a thousand tomes of protocol....

How many lifetimes does it take to learn the facts of life?  

(And how long do you have to live to recover from them…?) 

Is it fact that helps us recover – or is it metaphor?  

Source: Molly Peacock,The Paper Garden (London: Bloomsbury, 2012), p. 63 – click here for the bestellar review of this glorious book.

The thinker, with his metaphors, will illuminate the external world through intangible ideas that for him are intimate and immediate.   

Source: Jorge Luis Borges, On Writing, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2010, p. 6

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